East Asia

Hong Kong: will protests spread to mainland?

Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “fake concession,” with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam’s supposed “withdrawal” of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. ChinaWorker.info, a Hong Kong-based website that supports independent labor struggles in China and is now supporting the protest movement in the city, warns of an imminent escalation in repression: “What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses.” (Photo: ChinaWorker.info)

Africa
Africa fires

Central African forests burning faster than Amazon

Central Africa’s rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, “In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation.” Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to “widespread agricultural burning,” as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops. (Photo: FIRMS)

The Amazon

Amazon forest fires spread to Bolivia

President Evo Morales announced that Bolivia has contracted a Boeing 747 “Supertanker” to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that have spread over the border from Brazil. He has also mobilized army helicopters to evacuate affected communites deep in the rainforest. Although Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been openly encouraging the destruction of the Amazon, dropping barriers to the clearing of forest by agribusiness and resource interests, he is now floating the baseless conspiracy theory that the fires were set by NGOs that oppose his government in an effort to discredit him. Indigenous and environmental groups in Bolivia, however, accuse the supposedly left-wing Evo Morales of more quietly instating similar policies. (Image: Planet Labs Inc via Mongabay)

Mexico

Chiapas: Zapatistas expand autonomous territory

In a communiqué entitled “And We Break the Siege,” signed by Insurgent Subcomandander Moisès, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas ammounced an expansion of their zone of autonomous self-governing territory. The statement said the EZLN has created seven new “Caracoles” (regional self-governing bodies) and four new Zapatistas Rebel Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ). These 11 new bodies add to the five Caracoles and 27 MAREZ already in existence, bringing to 43 the number of self-governing territories within the Zapatista autonomous zone. The new rebel entities are within the “official” municipalities of Ocosingo, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chilón. Tila, Amatenango del Valle, Motozintla and Chicomuselo. The Zapatistas have named their new campaign of expanding their territory in Chiapas “Samir Flores Soberanes,” after the indigenous leader who was assassinated in Morelos state this year. (Photo via Solidarity)

The Andes

Indigenous target in Colombia human rights crisis

The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to effectively protect the lives and physical and cultural integrity of the Nasa indigenous people amid a wave of assassinations in their territory in the southern department of Cauca. The statement noted attacks on members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard over the past 24 hours, in which two were killed—Gersain Yatacué in the community of Toribio and Enrique Güejia in the community of Tacueyo. These brought to 36 the members of the Nasa people killed so far this year, according to Alberto Brunori, the UN human rights officer for Colombia, who said there is now an “alarming situation” in Cauca. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes
ADEPCOCA

Internecine cocalero violence in Bolivia

Violent tensions are flaring in Bolivia’s capital between rival factions of one of the country’s coca-grower unions, which oversee sales to the legal market. Clashes broke out in early August between two factions of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers of La Paz (ADEPCOCA)—one loyal to President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), the other to imprisoned union leader Franklin Gutiérrez. The former group staged “parallel” elections for new union leaders in late July, but the latter refuses to recognize the poll, and demands the release of Gutiérrez and other imprisoned unionists. The first clashes came as MAS supporters besieged the ADEPCOCA headquarters in La Paz, demanding that the Gutiérrez supporters surrender the offices.  (Photo: La Razón)

Planet Watch

UN report on climate change calls for urgent action

A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)

The Amazon

Brazil: garimpeiros kill indigenous leader

Brazilian authorities are investigating the murder of an indigenous leader in the northern state of Amapá, in the Amazon region, where violence has escalated since a group of some 50 heavily armed men—believed to be garimpeiros, or outlaw gold-miners—reportedly invaded the Wajãpi indigenous reserve. Indigenous chief Emyra Wajãpi was found stabbed to death close to the village where he lived, according to the Council of Wajãpi Villages (APINA). Three days later, the group of armed men appeared in the neighboring Yvytotõ indigenous village and threatened residents, forcing them to flee, according to APINA. Invasion of indigenous territories by ostensibly illegal mining outfits has escalated dramatically under current Presdent Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo of Wajãpi indigenous people via Mongabay)

Africa

Land defender slain in Democratic Republic of Congo

A Congolese environmental and human rights activist was killed by a security guard of the Canadian palm-oil company Feronia Inc, near the company’s Boteka plantation in Eqauteur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The killing follows months of intimidation directed at local communities that have filed a grievance against the company for its occupation of their lands. Joël Imbangola Lunea operated a motor-boat to transport people and goods between local villages. He was also a community leader and member of the NGO Information & Support Network of the DRC (RIAO-RDC), and was involved in mediating land disputes. He was killed when his boat, filled with passengers and luggage, was approached by a security guard who accused him of transporting stolen palm oil from the plantation. He was beaten and finally strangled to death, his body thrown into the Moboyo River. (Photo of Lunea at mediation session via RIAO-RDC)

East Asia
Ji Sizun

China: justice sought in death of ‘barefoot lawyer’

International rights groups are demanding accountability from China in the death of Ji Sizun, the most recent victim of the ongoing crackdown on dissident lawyers in the People’s Republic. Two months after being released from prison, Ji, 69, died from unknown illnesses, guarded by state security in a hospital in his native Fujian province. He had reportedly been ill-treated in detention, and was released in a comatose state. One of China’s most prominent “barefoot lawyers,” or self-taught legal advocates, Ji spent most of the past 10 years in prison. “Chinese authorities need to investigate Ji Sizun’s hospitalization and death and hold accountable anyone responsible for wrongdoing,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher with Human Rights Watch. “For human rights defenders in China, prison sentences are increasingly turning into death sentences.” (Photo: Chinese Human Rights Defenders)

The Amazon

Brazil: Yanomami lands overrun by illegal miners

Thousands of illegal gold-miners (garimpeiros) have invaded Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous reserves, covering 96,650 square kilometers of rainforest in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, near the border with Venezuela. An incursion of this scale has not occurred for a generation, bringing back memories among Yanomami elders of the terrible period in the late 1980s, when some 40,000 garimpeiros moved onto their lands and about a fifth of the indigenous population died in just seven years due to violence, malaria, malnutrition, mercury poisoning and other causes. (Photo via Mongabay)

The Amazon

Amazon destruction jumps under Bolsonaro

Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest rose more than 88% in June compared with the same month a year ago—the second consecutive month of rising forest loss under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. According to data from the Brazilian Space Agency, deforestation totaled 920 square kilometers. An analysis by BBC finds: “An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch [soccer field] is now being cleared every single minute.” This accelerated destruction is directly rooted in Bolsonaro administration policies, that have undermined the work of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, effectively gutting enforcement. Fines for illegal forest clearing and seizures of illegal timber have plummeted to record lows since he took office. (Photo via Mongabay)